Thursday, April 25, 2013

Have You Failed Lately? #AnnualForum13

Friends in philanthropy, local government, nonprofits and beyond: join us for our Annual Forum 2013!

Minnesota is home to some of the most rapidly shifting demographics and widening disparities in the nation. Our community’s growing needs tell us that it’s time to work harder, smarter and more closely with one another to build a brighter future for Minnesota. What’s it going to take? A hunger for innovation, a willingness to take risks, a commitment to accountability and a good dose of resilience when we fail. 

We hope you’ll join us for this year’s Annual Forum as nonprofit, philanthropic, business, and community leaders come together to experience what it means to Dare to Fail on the Road to Discovery, with keynote speaker and best-selling author Peter Sims.


What do Thomas Edison, Chris Rock, and Jeff Bezos all have in common?
Answer: An understanding that the biggest ideas spring forth from a series of small discoveries that together lead to game-changing innovation. 

In his latest book, Little Bets, Sims interviewed 200 successful creators and innovators to demonstrate that traditional linear problem-solving and fear of failure hinders creativity. A strong supporter of the national nonprofit landscape and the co-author of best-seller True North with Minnesota’s own Bill George, Sims is sure to inspire us. Together we can start making ‘little bets’ in order to build collective impact in our community.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Noon – 1:30 p.m.
Networking begins at 11 a.m.

University of St. Thomas

We are very excited about this year's lunch event, featuring Peter Sims, the Charities Review Council Report to the Community, and our Community Leadership Award Ceremony.

Register online at or call us at 651-224-7030. If you are interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Kate Khaled.

Arrangements for the appearance of Peter Sims made through The GUILD Agency.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Have Something to Say About the Accountability Standards?

The Charities Review Council is excited to be launching an annual rolling review of the Accountability Standards®! This will be a continued initiative where 5-7 of the Standards will be reviewed every year. We’ll refresh and present our cutting edge Accountability Standards® each January, and the revised Standards will be applied to new reviews that year. (Note to nonprofits: Don’t worry! Not every Accountability Standard will change, and you’ll still only have to renew every three years).

You’ve seen our Meets Standards Seal®, but did you know that in order to meet Standards, an organization must first achieve positive results on more than 27 carefully researched measures? We work hand-in-hand with nonprofits to ensure that they have to tools and resources to build their internal strength through the Accountability Standards®.

“Recognizing that the world is ever-changing, the Charities Review Council is committed to annually reviewing the Accountability Standards. We want to help nonprofit organizations thrive in that world, while ensuring that donors feel confident that the Standards are relevant in terms of current trends and conditions,” said Patty Wilder, Vice Chair of the Council’s Board of Directors.

The Council wants to make sure that both nonprofits and donors have a strong voice in determining what the Accountability Standards® look like. We are committed to continuously improving and building shared agreement about which standards are important to the common good, and which standards indicate a truly strong organization.

As an informed and invested donor or nonprofit professional, you can work with us to strengthen the way we support the nonprofit sector by participating in a survey that will inform the Standards Review process.

This is a team effort. We know we don’t have all the answers, so we need your help. Tell us about what it means to be a strong and smart nonprofit. Tell us what informs your giving decisions. Tell us how we can build strong, shared standards that the whole community can stand behind.

Find out more about the annual rolling review of Standards, and participate in our online survey and be entered to win some great giveaways - all to improve the nonprofit community.

Take the survey!
Do you represent a nonprofit organization? CLICK HERE.
Are you a supporter of nonprofits? CLICK HERE.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Cultural Shift: Reflections on #MNnptech 2013

By Amy Sinykin, Associate Director

I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective lately and I realized I’ve been witness to an interesting cultural shift in the professional realm. This was evident at the Nonprofit Technology and Communications Conference yesterday, sponsored by MAP for Nonprofits and Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. You see, I’m no longer surprised by the overwhelming number of attendees who carry their laptops, phones, and tablets from session to session. You might be thinking “well, duh.” And you’re right - of course more technology will be
visible at a tech conference than at any other conference. 

But on the other side of the scene, at my favorite local finance workshops, no one has their phone or tablet out. And I mean no one. It’s the kind of environment where you pretend to look for a tissue in your bag and as you lean down, you surreptitiously look at your phone to check for texts or tweets. Yet, and here’s where you may not have noticed the change--just last month, there were several of us finance geeks with phones out, live-tweeting the presentation. No sneak peeking at phones required!

How great is it when the keynote speaker at a technology conference confirms your own observations? I felt so on top of things. The culture is changing. As the ladies from Geek Girls Guide, Meghan Wilker (@irishgirl) Nancy Lyons (@nylons), so humorously and intelligently conveyed, we are no longer in an industrial age where we need to be at the office from 9-5 to get our jobs done. The tools are with us everywhere we go, and while sometimes we might not want them buzzing and beeping as we sit in the quiet of our backyards, they are there when we need them.

My favorite quote from the Geek Girls was “technology offers the ‘hyperlink’ override of hierarchy.” Anyone can have a voice in your organization. Our choice now is to learn to embrace it or try to force a false hierarchy. As individuals, we have the opportunity to move forward into the new world of blending our personal and professional lives. And as organizations, we have the chance to blend the organizational voice with those unique individuals’ voices. As Lyons said, “Organizations need to learn how to let people do things instead of how to make them do things.”

At the Council, we began the blending several years ago. It has been a bumpy and uncomfortable road, but we’ve all survived and are grateful for the journey. We can now say that we have a social media friendly culture - it’s in each employee’s job description and everyone from our executive director to program staff is eager to share their social media adventures with colleagues.

So here’s to hoping for more bumps. Technology is changing rapidly and it will continue to be uncomfortable—humans are the ones using it after all.

P.S. Don’t forget to save the date for our Annual Forum on June 11, where we'll be talking more about change and the little bumps and failures along the way!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Save the Date and a Big Welcome to Yer Chang!

Before reading further, please take a minute to pull up your calendar and Save the Date for our 2013 Annual Forum on June 11, from 11:00am - 1:30pm. We’re bringing the Forum to a whole new level this year, and we’re pretty jazzed about the pieces that are coming together. We’ll tell you more in a few weeks, but here’s what we can say for now: Our keynote speaker is a nationally recognized bestselling author, he’s talking about failure, and what you’ll learn is game-changing. Stay tuned for more! You do not want to miss it. 


Now for even more exciting news. You might have noticed a ‘welcome’ trend recently: we’re growing. We’re working really hard to build an incredible team of experts to move the Council forward into a new era of social change. Part of that is demonstrating our commitment to measurement and evaluation. So meet our new research and evaluation consultant, Yer Chang. She’s busy building a number of surveys and working on defining our impact, but she generously took a few minutes to tell us a bit about herself in her own words.

1. How did you end up in the research and evaluation field?
Serendipity, actually! Starting at a very young age, I’ve always had a curious mind and loved searching for information as a way to learn and grow – I just didn’t know that it was called research. And as for my love for evaluation, it came much later while studying at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. In school, I took a course in program evaluation and was amazed of how naturally things came to me as I read the course materials and completed the assignments. However, I put that passion for evaluation on the back burner and didn’t pay much attention to it until after graduation as I met with one of my mentors for lunch. She shared with me her career path in program evaluation, and she quickly introduced me to her other colleagues in the field. I am very fortunate to have great mentors. Since that meeting I have enjoyed working on multiple research and evaluation projects.

2. If you could open your own business, what would it be?
I love food, so it would have to be a restaurant, of course! I especially love Southeast Asian food, anywhere from Thai, Lao, Burmese, Vietnamese and Hmong food would fit my fancy. I also love organic produce and fresh veggies, so I would try to incorporate that into the menu as much as possible.

3. Tell us about your favorite movie of all time.
I probably have watched “Titanic” about a dozen times. I just love the romance story that is told through the two main actors, Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio. I would probably watch it another dozen times if I had the time.

4. What are you most excited about working on at the Council?
I am most excited about bringing my knowledge and expertise of program evaluation to the Council. I look forward to working with the staff and board. I think, the council is at a pivotal point in building up their services and I am thrilled to be in the midst of this exciting change.

5. If you could go on a vacation anywhere at no cost, where would you go?
My escape would be to Chiang Mai, Thailand. I lived in Thailand for a year in 2003 and have not gone back since. I love the variety of things you can do there, I miss my friends and of course, I love the food!

6. Do you have any advice or tips for nonprofits regarding easily-accessible evaluation tools or resources?
I love American Evaluation Association (AEA), Minnesota Evaluation Association (MEA) and Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute (MESI). All these organizations are full of resources, tools and information about evaluation. AEA has an annual conference every year in the Fall, it also has daily blogs, and just tons of resources online. MEA has local topical interest gatherings quarterly or monthly, local evaluators to connect with and acts as a local chapter to AEA. MESI has an annual conference in the Spring, great resources online and offers additional ways to connect to local evaluators.

One of my favorite books of all time is Handbook of Practical Program Evaluation by Joseph S. Wholey, Harry P. Hatry, and Kathryn E. Newcomer. It’s the book we used during the evaluation course that got me started on this journey. Every now and then I refer back to the text to refresh my skills and it’s also a great resource for those who want to explore the field of evaluation.

7. What’s the most delicious thing you’ve ever eaten?
I took a short vacation once to Phuket, Thailand in 2003. Phuket is known as one of the largest island south of Thailand. My friend was from the area so she took us to the most fabulous restaurant ever! We took a paddle boat from shore to reach the restaurant, which was located on the water – it was beautiful and only something you would only see in a movie. We ate live seafood, fish, and oysters caged within short distance of where we were seated. We selected our fish by pointing to which one we wanted cooked and served to us. We had the most fabulous and fresh oysters straight from underneath our seats. It was the best restaurant experience ever!

To recap, she’s an evaluation geek, she’s full of resources, and she loves delicious food. Obviously, Yer fits right in already. Save the date for June 11 at the Annual Forum and you can meet her yourself!